The Conversion Scene on Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) CalCars update with The Green Living Guy twist.


It was a pleasure to read this morning that there is more serious attention being brought to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).  Felix Kramer of CalCars posted a story on the website that was written by John O’Dell, Senior Editor at Edmunds: PHEV Conversions Slow to Catch On in U.S., But Could Be Big Elsewhere; Low Cost ‘Revolo’ Hybridization Kit Could Boost India’s Presence in Gas-Electric Arena. 

Selling new hybrids and electric vehicles helps slow our use of oil and reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions from transportation, but it will take decades to sell enough to meaningfully dilute the impact of the nearly 1 billion internal combustion vehicles on the world’s roads today. But convert many of those existing vehicles to electric drive and the impact could be tremendous and immediate. That’s been the message that plug-in advocates such as CalCars founder Felix Kramer and University of California engineering professor Andy Frank have been preaching for years.  That is why I am trying to trumpet that cause with my book Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle.  If you have a reputable company that can convert the car with a real technology and warranty package what else is there?!

According to Kramer’s research ALTe, a Michigan company has been showing a prototype converted Ford F150 pickup in which the standard gas engine has been replaced with a modular system consisting of a smaller internal combustion engine and an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack.

There are other companies too like:

  • XL Hybrids of Boston and
  • Chicago-based Hybrid Electric Vehicles Technologies, that

offer conversion systems that use the vehicles’ existing engines and transmissions and add the necessary batteries and electric drive components. CalCars maintains a list of U.S. plug-in hybrid conversion providers­ice-conversions.html

ALTe, which charges about $25,000 for its F-150 conversion, can only qualify for a $2,500 federal tax credit while the new factory-built Chevrolet Volt PHEV and Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle each will qualify for a $7,500 credit.  Why??  That doesn’t make sense.  It we can make an F-150 clean and it’s a bigger job, why not include old cars too, except making an F-150 a cash for clunker

I agree with Kramer that we should be taking our old cars and converting them one at a time as well as supporting new EVs and PHEVs.  It really is the best way to look at our automotive fleet of cars out there since there are millions and millions of trucks, pickups, SUVs and Humvees that need EV and PHEV conversions today.  Not tomorrow..TODAY!

Yet, “the maximum federal credit” for a conversion is $4,000 and most- like the ALTe system – qualify for much less. The federal formula is a credit of 10 percent of the conversion cost up to a maximum of $4,000 – for a $40,000 conversion.

But things are moving along, albeit slowly. At Alte, company marketing director Brian Polowniak told us recently that he expects to have several announcements to make by late summer, including word on the disposition of his company’s application for a $100-million loan guarantee from the federal government’s advanced technology vehicle manufacturing program that will help ALTe build a factory to begin turning out a stream of plug-in conversions. Also in the works: a distribution deal with a major auto dealership chain.

And in India, the new aftermarket hybridization kit, called the Revolo system (right, taken from “revolution”), is slated to go on sale by the end of the year. Its developers claim it can increase the typical Indian-market passenger car’s fuel economy by 40 percent while reducing CO2 output by more than 30 percent. Once the business model is proven in India, Pandit told us, the companies expect to go global with the system.

We need to be building these kits for PHEVs now.  Stimulus money needs to go to that versus bridges to nowhere!

To hear that a company called Revolu came up with a plug-in hybrid conversion kit for a small car in Europe or the U.S. could cost as little at $5,000 using lead-acid batteries I could not believe it.  Wake up America; common!!!

The low-cost, easy-to-install kits they are building will make PHEV conversions accessible to most people in the U.S., said Kramer – who also believes that it will take the development of smaller and more powerful batteries and inexpensive in-wheel electric motors to truly make U.S. passenger car conversions work, as there is little room on most cars to day to add an electric motor and a battery pack.

Kramer adds that commercial fleets look at total cost of ownership over many years and many miles, so a higher initial purchase cost isn’t that much of a concern if the vehicle saves money on maintenance and fuel.” And if the U.S. doesn’t get on the ball – private business and government alike – Kramer worries, pointing to efforts such as Revolo, then fleet operators may be purchasing their conversion systems, or converted vehicles, from overseas suppliers in the electric-drive industry’s repeat of the Asian takeover of the small-car business in the U.S.

More About Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles from The Green Living Guy

The Prius You Can Plug In

Events Rundown: National & California Plus New Global Campaigns by Felix Kramer from

Toyota and New York City will join the company’s U.S. Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicle (PHV) demonstration program.